Sunday 1 August 2021

A quick and dirty 48 ... okay, make that 72 ... hour build

I recently fancied setting myself a 48 hour making challenge. And, upon finding a delightful little doodle by the late great Rowland Emmet, I decided to make a small steam-powered Hansom Cab. Here's the doodle in question:

I wanted to make it using existing materials from my junk box so I didn't set out to make an exact copy of Rowland's design. I let it inspire me instead. 

I had a pair of laser cut coaching wheels left over from another project so that was a good start. I also had some sheets of balsa so I knew I could make the cab itself. Therefore I started with the boiler/engine component.
What you see here is an orange juice bottle, two scoops from various powdered goods, an old caster from a swivel chair, a Rotring ink bottle,  a biro casing, bottle caps and a car air freshener. I then added some plasticard panels, punched from behind (using a dead biro and hammer) to give the impression of rivets. Then I added some wooden stirrers, some beads as pipe connection points, and some googly eyes as rivets. 

Next step was to add some further details - such as some nylon bearings on the funnel, more bits of balsa, some aluminium wire as pipes, garden spikes, the cap from an old inhaler and a small plastic bird (both found while dog walking). I ditched the round air freshener as it unbalanced the sculpt. I then painted the whole thing black and dry brushed it with a mixture of metallic copper and silver.

I would add more detail (greeblies) and a top to the funnel in due course. Meanwhile, I started work on the cab section. I cut the whole thing from balsa sheets and made the harness/runners from some old foamcore. And that was the end of Day 1.

Day 2 started somewhat disastrously. I walked into my studio, tripped, knocked the cab onto the floor and then stood on it. Nightmare!

But, actually, the accident did me a favour. I wasn't entirely happy with it anyway. And building it a second time gave me the opportunity to improve the shape and make the structure stronger. The new shape also allowed me to add a door that opens and shuts. I wasn't totally happy with the windows though and resolved to figure out a better option than the holes I'd cut. 

I added a saddle for the driver (actually the trigger from a spray bleach bottle) and gave the whole thing a coat of brown paint. I then made a passenger seat from card and covered in an old off-cut of Tweed (my wife is a seamstress).

And that was the end of Day Two. Okay, so my planned 48 hour model wasn't going to happen now. But what's an extra day?

On Day Three the cab got several coats of paint and was 'dirtied' up. I then attached it to the engine with some screws and hot glue. What I needed now was a driver.

Some time ago - when I was first teaching myself to work with Super Sculpey - I made a figure of a birdwatcher. Here he is.

 I figured that he could be sacrificed and cannibalised for the greater good. So I remade his hands and feet, cut down his nose, added a moustache and a great coat and repainted him.

I glued him onto his saddle and made some reins/ropes by twisting some fine aluminum wire. And that was the end of Day Three.

I was pretty pleased with the finished result.

But was it really finished?

I think it was Leonard da Vinci who said that art is never finished, only abandoned. That is so true. I'm still not happy with the windows and I think the cab needs some coaching lamps and maybe some decorative detailing in gold. So I may come back to it.

Watch this space.



As predicted, I couldn't just leave it like that. I found some laser-cut zeroes in a craft shop which made much better windows. I also added an expansion tank at the rear of the cab with a pipe to the boiler. 

I then realised that there was nowhere for the customers' luggage so I started to construct a trailer from old fast food dishes and various greeblies. I then made some things to go in the trailer including this cabin trunk made from a pill box covered in leather rescued from an old chair I ditched, plasticard strips and some stickers I printed off the internet.

I also added some coaching lamps, curtains, a ladder and some steering reins to the engine and gave it a touch of green paint. Finally getting somewhere!


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